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"I'm more aware of the body than ever": old adults' experiences of the psychosocial significance of their bodies

Authors
Publisher
Springer India
Publication Date
Disciplines
  • Psychology

Abstract

Psychology theorises about the ageing body in terms of physical losses, and recommends transcending the body for satisfactory ageing. This study explored old adults’ conceptions of the ageing body to identify its relevance for their well-being in personal and interpersonal contexts. Ten retired individuals participated in semi-structured interviews and data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Ageing was found to trigger a conflict between the participants’ active self and weakening body. The interviewees defensively attempted to sideline their bodies by preoccupying themselves with mental health and interpersonal issues. However, they realised that their daily experiences (e.g., emotions and interpersonal interactions) depended upon bodily fitness and reciprocally, physical health was affected by lifestyle choices alongside socio-cultural influences. This insight about the biopsychosocial nature of the body empowered the participants to adapt to ageing. Their limitations seemed to motivate them to assume health behaviours, to fight for dignity of self and to empathise with significant others, thus enhancing well-being. Perceptions about the body therefore influenced participants’ health management and relationships. An alternative theorisation of the body as an active contributor to human psychosocial identity will pave way for interventions that sustain quality of life among those experiencing physical decline.

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